A Rising Tide: Linda Wagner

Linda likes variety. She’s held a number of interesting jobs over the years. She’s been a nurse, CPA, director of surgical services, entrepreneur, and was the first women ski-lift operator at Aspen Ski Corp. Now she focuses on geographical variety – biking all around the world with her husband (over 3,000 miles in 2022)!

Kia: Linda, you have been involved with Together Women Rise since 2015. What drew you to this organization, and why have you stayed involved?

Linda: I was living in St. Petersburg, FL and didn’t know anyone. A friend of mine from Colorado suggested I start a chapter in my community, thought it would be good for me. I did, and it was. I liked all the aspects of being a chapter leader – I love cooking, entertaining, learning about the community, and I’ve always mentored women. It fit perfectly with the things I liked.

Kia: What was it like to move to a new state and start a chapter?

Linda: There were no chapters where I lived in Florida, but I did visit a chapter in Sarasota. At that meeting, I met another woman who lived in St. Petersburg so I thought there would be some interest. Since we were only temporarily going to be in Florida, I had to work fast to meet people. I’d meet people walking my dog, I asked my personal trainer to come to a meeting, I talked about Rise while at the cash register at the store. Inviting people to meetings was a great way to get introduced. When I moved back to Colorado, I started a chapter here, and already had a base of friends. Now, it’s a mix of people I’ve known from the beginning and new people. It’s a pretty diverse chapter.

Kia: You always have a door prize at your meetings. Why did you start that? And what kind of prizes do you give away?

Linda: I like to add an element of fun to the meetings and honor the people who donate. If you donate that month, you get entered into the door prize. I try to get prizes from the country we are featuring — sometimes from the grantee, if they have a store, but mostly I search online for women-made, fair trade items. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes not. We also have some stores here in Denver that sell African items. I have also given away the Book Club reads. People enjoy it because some will say “Oh, I’ve never won anything before.” It’s not a large group so your odds are pretty good!

Kia: You also have many international guests join your meetings. What’s your strategy there?

Linda: I enjoy research, and Denver is a very diverse area. We have a large refugee population. When we featured a project from Haiti, I struck up a conversation with a woman who I met from Haiti and asked her to attend. I went into an Afghan restaurant and asked them if they knew anyone who would be interested in coming to our meeting about an Afghanistan program. For last month’s Guatemala grantee, I had our lunch catered by a local Guatemalan café. We have some members who were in the Peace Corps, and they have connections too. We may also do a fundraiser soon with a man I know from Honduras who is a chef.

Kia: Your chapter members have such interesting backgrounds – and you have some men in your group. Can you tell us more about them and how you all came together?

Linda: Well, my husband has been very helpful to me over the years. We started out with women bringing their husbands and partners and built on that. We have retired women, a theater owner, attorneys, teachers, artists. A neighbor’s daughter also joined us who is interested in working in the international aspects of gender equality. I like to create a very welcoming environment, and I really enjoy it. I just talk about Rise all the time. I was recently at my husband’s college event and talked to a young woman who just moved to the area – she’s now joining us. We host lunch on the weekends so more people can attend, and I really enjoy making a dish from the featured country. It’s not a chore for me.

Kia: If you had an opportunity to have lunch with other chapter leaders, what would you want to talk about?

Linda: I always find it interesting to learn how people do things differently. I only know a few local chapters, so I want to know what other chapters do. Are other chapters growing? I like that chapters are not highly structured; we can make them what we want. A friend of mine’s chapter is four women who go out to dinner once a month. Mine is much different, but we’re both successful and enjoying it. Since I travel a lot, I would also love to visit other chapters around the country, or just meet other chapter leaders for coffee while I’m in town.

If you are interested in being featured on “A Rising Tide” or have a recommendation for a chapter or chapter leader who should be featured, please email Kia Hunter, our Volunteer Manager, at kia@togetherwomenrise.org.